Shared from the 2017-05-26 Chattanooga eEdition

Cosby seeking new solidarity with blacks he once alienated



Bill Cosby and his attorney leave Allegheny County Courthouse Wednesday after the third day of jury selection in his sexual assault trial in Pittsburgh.

PHILADELPHIA — After two years of silence amid an onslaught of sexual assault allegations, comedian Bill Cosby is sending carefully targeted messages about racial bias across the media landscape ahead of his June 5 trial in suburban Philadelphia.

Lawyers on both sides said late Wednesday they were satisfied with the jury’s makeup, given that it exceeds the 13 percent black population in Allegheny County, where the jurors were chosen.

“The Cosby team (now) cares about how the public and maybe even how the black community feels about this whole situation, which is striking given his diatribes against the most vulnerable people in that community. But we’ve seen stranger things in these big trials,” said James Braxton Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University. “It’s ironic how he makes that pivot, given that he’s demonized poor black people in the past.”

Cosby broke barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, “I Spy,” in the 1960s and created the top-ranked “Cosby Show” two decades later. But he has since alienated young blacks with his criticism of their clothes, music and lifestyle. And younger black comedians who once paid tribute to him have instead taken to calling him out onstage.

Hannibal Burress inspired more accusers to come forward when he called Cosby a rapist in his act in 2014, while Dave Chappelle has talked poignantly about losing faith in his childhood idol.

On his Facebook page, Cosby posted a photo this month of a bold, new portrait of a younger “Dr. Cosby” as the artist delivered it to his New York home. Cosby calls the portrait, “Restoration of Legacy.”

And in a longer SiriusXM interview last week, he reiterated his desire to clear his name, resume his career and restore his legacy.

“I want to get back to the laughter and the enjoyment of things that I’ve written and things that I perform on stage,” Cosby said. “I still feel that I have an awful lot to offer.”

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